#13/11 Ohio State v Illinois
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
The Buckeyes were #1 in the country when the Fighting Illini came into Columbus in November of 2007. The Buckeyes tasted defeat for the first time that season as the Illini shocked OSU 28-21. It’s been two years since the teams have faced off but the sting of that loss is still fresh in the minds of Buckeye Nation. The Illini are coming off a much needed early season bye week. Several key players sat out their last game and the week off allowed them to heal up. Illinois owns Ohio State in the ‘Shoe winning 4 of the last five and seven out of the last ten. It’s time to buck this trend.
Quarterback Terrell Pryor continued to improve but still displayed poor decision making by throwing into traffic and getting picked off twice. I’m also a little worried about Pryor’s mechanics. He still doesn’t look confident in his arm and jumped or threw off his back foot more than once. He also tried to throw the ball too much. On a broken play, an athletic quarterback needs to tuck the ball and get the first down and not sort of think about throwing the ball. Be decisive. The Illinois defense hasn’t been world beaters but they are a disciplined unit and will find holes in the soft and squishy Buckeye offensive line. If the line does its job the Buckeyes will control the clock and win handily. If the offensive line continues its recent tradition of missed assignments, implosive effort and weak play, Pryor will be running for his life and the running backs won’t have a chance to move the ball. This is the start of Big Ten season and this unit better get its act together. The Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl are still in our future and Saturday kicks it all off.
This defense is shaping up to be something special. Yes it was Toledo but anytime you get a shut out against a Division 1 team is an accomplishment. Toledo came into the game ranked the number one offense in the country and the Buckeye defense made them look silly. Illinois is coming off a bye week and it’s a good thing it happened so early. Quarterback Juice Williams was banged up in the second game of the season and had to sit out and watch backup Eddie McGee put up some good numbers. Along with Juice, the Illini have seen injuries across the board including wide receiver Arrelious Benn, running backs Dan Dufrene and Jason Ford, and linebacker Matez Wilson. All but Wilson are expected to play this Saturday. The defensive key to the game for the Buckeyes is to get to Juice and knock him out of his game. He’s a serious threat on the ground and if he gets into a throwing rhythm he can be unstoppable.
The Illinois offense sinks or swims depending on Juice Williams and with the way the Ohio State defense has played so far this season the edge has to go to the Buckeyes. As long as Ohio State doesn’t beat themselves they should be able to handle the Illini and bring the Illibuck back to Columbus.
Prediction: OSU 30 – Illini 17
Why OSU will win:
Terrell Pryor is maturing each game into a great quarterback.
Defense shuts down Juice.
Why OSU will lose:
The only way the Buckeyes lose this game is if they beat themselves with turnovers and a hurried offensive attack.
Bold prediction for the game:
The Illibuck is coming home to Columbus. Hopefully we won’t keep him in a bathtub again.
Crazy stat of the game:
The Illini own Ohio State in Columbus winning 7 of the last 10 games in Columbus.
Last time they met…
It’s been a few years but the memory of last time these two teams played still stings many Buckeye faithful. In 2007, Illinois defeated #1 ranked Ohio State in Columbus, 28-21.
Illini players to watch:
Senior QB #7 Juice Williams
Junior WR #9 Arrelious Benn
Sophomore RB #21 Jason Ford
Senior WR #16 Michael Hoomanawanui (I just like the name)
Junior WR #11 Jarred Fayson
Sophomore LB #38 Ian Thomas
Junior DB #20 Garrett Edwards